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Five for Friday: How Avaya Messaging Service Beats WhatsApp for Business

By now, you’ve probably heard whassup about WhatsApp, why both Facebook and, apparently, Google would be willing to spend $19 billion (or more!) for this 5-year-old startup.

I bet none of those plaudits concerned what WhatsApp brings to the table for businesses. Like Apple with its iPhone, WhatsApp doesn’t win business customers by design, but accident. The most obvious case being small, thrifty companies with employees or business partners scattered across different countries. They use WhatsApp to keep in touch. Of course, these are the same kinds of firms that put up with jittery pictures and murky sound on Skype rather than adopt a solution like our Scopia where the IT manager has full control over the Quality-of-Service.

Related article: Finally! Avaya Messaging Service Brings Texting into the Business World

But in general, WhatsApp is aimed squarely at consumers. It’s not true enterprise mobile messaging. If your company is looking for a real business-class platform, consider the Avaya Messaging Service, which bests WhatsApp in these 5 ways.

(Thanks to Tac Berry, Avaya Messaging Service product marketing manager, and Jeffrey Hodson, AMS chief architect at Avaya, for their input.)

1.      More Platforms. WhatsApp users can only send and receive messages from smartphones. Avaya Messaging Service users can send and receive texts from a wide spectrum of hardware, including smartphones, tablets and PCs. In other words:

laptop tablet smartphone

2.      Larger Reach. Facebook spent $19 billion on WhatsApp mostly because of its large, active user base – 450 million users each month, with 70% (315 million) logging in every single day. Well, with Avaya Messaging Service, users can text not just other AMS users (such as your co-workers), but also any of the other 6.8 billion SMS users worldwide. That’s 15x greater reach with AMS. With WhatsApp, you can’t easily message new sales prospects, provide support to customers or even colleagues in your company. With AMS, you can.

3.      Full One Number Support. Employees love BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). But they don’t necessarily want to give out their personal cellphone number to every potential customer or partner, especially if the relationship is sensitive or potentially tricky. Similarly, businesses aren’t wild about employees putting their personal cellphone numbers, or, worse, their WhatsApp contact info, on their business cards, for image reasons.

ams one number

With Avaya Aura and AMS, employees can now give out a single telephone number to their business contacts. They can be reached at this lone number, whether via phone call, videochat, fax, personal mobile phone, and now, text message.  That’s elegant simplicity. A number of universities have expressed strong interest in using AMS so that students can text their professors at their office telephone numbers, rather than their pestering them on their personal devices. By contrast, WhatsApp a) forces you to use your cellphone number, including possibly your personal cellphone, as your account ID; b) grows, rather than simplifies, the messy proliferation of channels that you can be contacted on.

4.      Better History of Security and Privacy. AMS messages are stored in a secure, hosted environment. Moreover, messages sent between AMS users on the same corporate domain are encrypted. Since August 2012, WhatsApp also encrypts all messages while they are being sent. However, none of its messages are stored on its servers. For regulatory reasons, businesses are often required to keep a record of all employee communications (think Sarbanes-Oxley). Also, WhatsApp has an ongoing history of hacker break-ins, malware infections and other security holes. It’s so bad that Ars Technica ran an article today headlined, “Crypto weaknesses in WhatsApp ‘the kind of stuff the NSA would love’.” Harsh.

Moreover, WhatsApp aggressively tries to link you to potential friends by uploading your entire mobile phone address book to its servers so it can ‘scrape’ your contacts. That is convenient, but it’s also privacy-intruding, and as a result has been subject to Canadian-Dutch government investigation. For businesses, WhatsApp’s tactics can go against business regulations that touch upon data privacy or storage, such as HIPAA or the aforementioned Sarbanes-Oxley.

5.      Better Enterprise IT Support. IT managers are control freaks. And for good reason: every single application running on their networks and systems has the potential to negatively affect or take down their other systems. AMS gives administrators strong control over the service: Which employees’ numbers should be activated, whether or not images and audio recordings can be sent across the corporate network or outside to external regular SMS users, etc. WhatsApp doesn’t give IT managers any such control. Under Facebook, I can’t imagine WhatsApp getting MORE business-oriented, but instead going down the opposite way.

Eric Lai is the former Editorial Director at Avaya. He joined Avaya in Nov 2012 from SAP, where his enterprise mobility blog attracted more than 100,000 readers a month and was awarded Top Corporate Blog by BtoB Magazine. Prior to SAP, Eric was a technology editor and reporter for a decade and a half in Asia and the U.S. Follow him on Twitter @ericylai. more

2 comments
Marcel Charrois
Marcel Charrois

Fantastic article Eric. This is a story that we need to get into the spotlight!